Food Combining

I’ve been trying to eliminate stomach-aches since I can remember…literally. In my long search, almost nothing has been as effective as proper “food combining.” That said…I don’t want you to run out and buy a long book on complicated food combining practices. Some people have made a complex science out of it…which is fine, except that adding stress to food planning can take away from its healthful benefits. There is just a plain and simple way to take advantage of this food philosophy, and I swear you can still eat yummy food.

So here is the basic Food Combining “equation:”
One Carb+One Protein+Fat+Lots of Vegetables (fiber)!!!!

OR

Fruits-All by themselves.

*Note: The ingredients used should be of good quality. Eating cheese is fine, but the plastic-like American stuff is barely more edible than plastic. So make sure your ingredients are fresh and chemical free. 

For the purposes of food combining, what food counts for which categories?
Carbs: For this purpose, carbs include: Potatoes, corn, corn meal, flour, oats, wheat, rye, flour, corn, very starchy root vegetables, some legumes, and beans. (For the purpose of food combining, beans and legumes are in both the carb and protein category).
Proteins include: Meat, soy, dairy*, beans, and some legumes.
Fat: Oil, mayo, lard, butter, avocado, nuts, seeds, nut and seed butters, etc.
Vegetables: All vegetables, like lettuce, greens, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, etc. (Except veggies that are super starchy, like potatoes. Legumes, beans, edamame, and such do not count as vegetables.)
**Dairy: Though dairy is a general “protein,” in food combining, the different forms of dairy count as seperate proteins. For instance, sour cream, cheese, and yogurt would count as three different “types” of protein. So combining several different forms of dairy in one meal could equal digestive issues.

Some meals after they have been properly “food combined.” Although they say “tummy happy,” this may not prove true for everyone. You must pay attention to food allergies and sensitivities.

A Typical Burrito: Flour Tortilla, Rice, Beans, Meat, Cheese, Tomatoes, and Sour Cream=Digestive disaster.

3 kinds of carbs, 3 forms of proteins, and very little vegetables equals impending digestive distress.

Tummy Happy Burrito: Corn/Flour Tortilla, Grilled Veggies, Raw Cheese, and Avocado.

Typical Breakfast: Sausage/Bacon, 3 Eggs, Fried Hash-browns, Pancakes, and Toast w/Butter and Jam.

Tummy Happy Breakfast: Pan-Roasted potatoes with veggies and Himalayan Salt, topped with an Organic Free Range Egg OR Tofu Scramble.

Typical Sandwich: White bread, lunch meat, cheese, mayo, mustard, lettuce and tomato.

Tummy Happy Sandwich: Organic sourdough bread, raw swiss (or tempeh bacon), mixed greens, peppers, sauerkraut, avocado, and mustard.

Fruits: Fruit is an interesting food. It can be very good for you…but better for your tummy if eaten alone. Fruit digests very quickly…more quickly than grains, fats, proteins, and even some vegetables. So if you eat it combined with these foods, it will digest, than start to “ferment” in your stomach, since it can’t go anywhere until the other food digests as well. So fruit can make a great between-meal snack, or evening meal, but it can cause some unpleasant side effects when combined with other food (like fruit and cottage cheese).

*Note: the exception to this is pineapple and papaya. These tropical fruits contain natural digestive enzymes, and small amounts can be eaten after a meal.

Here’s a recipe for fruit salad!

Orange-Roasted Tofu with Asparagus

Finding quick, easy, and healthy recipes that you can make over and over is an essential to optimal health. This recipe was suggested by a client of mine, and is an absolute breeze to make! Preparation time is negligible, just pop it in the oven and dig in! As with many recipes, the recipe itself can serve as a base. Always feel free to add extra ingredients that suit your own pallet.

This is an excellent recipe for the season, as asparagus is just luscious in the spring! I’ll have an article soon on all the benefits asparagus yields.

*This recipe is adapted from the EatingWell Cookbook.

Ingredients:

  • 1 14-oz package extra-firm tofu (Organic if possible, non-gmo if not)
  • 2 Tablespoons Red Miso
  • 2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Pound Asparagus, trimmed, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons fresh Basil (1-2 Tablespoon dry if not fresh)
  • 1 Teaspoon Orange Zest
  • 1/4 cup Orange Juice (freshly squeezed if possible)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
  • (Optional) 1/2 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • (Optional) 1 Teaspoon Red Chili Flakes
  • (Optional) Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • (Optional) 1 Teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil

Preparation:

  • 1. Preheat oven to 450˚F. Coat a large baking sheet or baking dish with olive oil (coconut oil optional).
  • 2. Cut Tofu into 1/2 inch cubes, then pat dry. Mix 1 tablespoon miso, 1 tablespoon vinegar, and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a bowl until a smooth consistency. Optionally, mix cayenne pepper and/or red chili flakes with this mixture if you prefer a much spicier variation (if you would like less heat from the spices, mix spices in step 3 instead). Toss and coat mixture over tofu. Spread tofu evenly over baking sheet/dish, and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, and toss asparagus with tofu; roast for an additional 10-12 minutes, until tofu is golden brown and asparagus is tender.
  • 3. While tofu and asparagus are roasting, mix remaining tablespoon of miso, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, basil, orange zest, orange juice, and optional cayenne pepper/chili flakes in a large bowl until smooth. Remove tofu and asparagus from oven and toss with remaining mixture. Optionally, add an additional 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of coconut oil for extra flavor. Add freshly grand black pepper to taste. Let sit for a few minutes to cool. Serve, and enjoy!

This recipe makes an excellent main dish, so feel free to serve with whatever you may like as a side – rice, quinoa, extra vegetables – eat it alone, or even double the recipe! Makes 3 servings.

The Proteins

Perhaps more than any other macronutrient, protein is the most consistently mentioned. In fact, it means literally “of first importance/quality.” When we think of protein, we think mostly of what we are eating, and while that will be mostly the focus of this article, proteins extend far beyond what’s on the end of your fork. Proteins are building blocks of all living organisms, creating the structures that support their cells, functioning as hormones to organize our life processes, creating antibodies to safe-guard our being, acting as catalysts in the form of enzymes, as well as having thousands of other functions. Protein is the most abundant molecule in the human body, with the exception of water. Because of proteins’ vast array of functions, it is the nutrient primarily used to build and rebuild tissues within our body, such as your muscles.

Protein as a macronutrient differs from the others in that it is a large molecule composed of amino acids linked together by peptide bonds. The are 22 amino acids important to our health, as they serve important functions in our body, and are divided into three categories: essential amino acids, non-essential amino acids, and conditionally essential amino acids. Essential amino acids cannot be produced by our body, and as such must be acquired from the foods that we eat. Non-essential amino acids on the other hand can be created by the human body through the breakdown of proteins during digestion, provided enough protein is ingested. Conditionally essential amino acids are usually non-essential, except in times of stress, such as illness.

There are nine essential amino acids including leucine, isoleucine, valine, lysine, threonine, methionine, phenylalinine, tryptophan, and histidine. Non-essential amino acids include alinine, asparagine, aspartic acid, and glutamic acid. Conditionally essential amino acids include arginine, cysteine, glutamine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine.

All food contains some protein, as it must in order for whatever organism it came from to survive – the only exception is if a food is processed from its natural form. Primarily we think of protein deriving from animal sources, such as beef, chicken, fish, milk products, and eggs. It can also be found in plant sources, such as legumes, grains, roots and tubers, seeds, nuts, vegetables, and fruit. Foods are classified into two groups when it comes to proteins: sources of complete protein and sources of incomplete proteins.

Sources of complete protein are foods that contain the full array of amino acids as required by the human body. Most frequently this includes sources of animal protein, but can also include exceptional plant foods such as quinoa and chia seeds. Sources of incomplete protein are foods that do not contain all amino acids in significant amounts as required by the human body, which primarily includes plant based foods.

There are some important caveats to this that will be touched on in future articles, but especially includes the source from which meat derives. For example, a cow fed a diet that is unnatural or atypical from what it would normally eat (ie. consisting primarily of corn and other grains), may lack specific amino acids required by its own body, as well as the human body, as opposed to a cow fed its natural diet of only grass.

The human body is a magnificent engine, and as such, it is not necessary to eat food containing only complete proteins. So long as our food is not derived from a single source of calories, our bodies are able to break down proteins from a vast array of foods and obtain whatever it may require to function. While it is important to eat a wide variety of foods to obtain the nutrients (not only protein) your body requires, it is even more important to eat a wide variety of foods if your diet does not contain sources of complete proteins. A way of thinking about this is to imagine a ‘pool.’ When your body breaks down proteins, it takes amino acids and adds them to the pool. As you continue to ingest and break down more proteins, it takes the amino acids and again adds them to the pool. When your body requires specific amino acids, it is able to gather what it requires from the pool, and assimilate them into the specific proteins it requires.

There has a been a wide debate for many, many years, nearly since the discovery of protein on a molecular level, about how much protein we actually need in order to survive. The requirement for protein varies on an individual level, determined primarily on an individual’s activity level. For example, a sedentary individual requires much less protein than an athlete, as the athlete is more frequently breaking down tissue in need of repair. Largely, trial and error are required to determine how much protein you need, and from what sources your body best derives and assimilates them from.

What is a Carb?

Carbohydrates are molecules composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that all plant foods (beans, grains, fruits, vegetables, etc) contain. There are four different types of carbs, which all serve a certain purpose:

“Simple Sugars:” Monosaccharides and Disaccharides : The simplest forms of carbohydrates, simple sugars are immediate sources of energy. All other forms Simple Sugarsof energy (fat, protein, starch, complex carbs) need digestive enzymes in the stomach to break them down before they’re converted to energy for our cells. Sugar enters our blood stream as soon as it dissolves in our saliva. (This can be useful when running a marathon or riding a bike, since our body doesn’t have the energy to digest, but needs the calories.)

Sugars

What kinds of foods constitute simple sugars? Many foods contain sugar (even milk, which contains lactose), but pure simple sugar is usually extracted from a whole food (except honey.) “Concentrated fruit syrup,” table sugar, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, etc., are almost pure sugar. Many foods contain sugars, but most of them contain fiber, protein, and/or fat as well, so the sugar will not absorb into the body as quickly.

The prebiotic: Oligosaccharides: Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates made up of 3-10 simple sugars linked together, and humans cannot fully digest them. That can actually be beneficial…the undigested bits serve as food for intestinal microflora, (bacteria in our gut!)

Chicory Root

What kinds of foods contain oligosaccharides? They are found in plants in small amounts. Chicory root and Jerusalem artichokes contain the highest amount, but they’re also found in: wheat, jicama, the onion family, asparagus, burdock root, and other plants.

“Complex Carbs,” Polysaccharides: “Complex Carbs” release their energy more slowly than simple sugars, since it takes longer for our bodies to break them down. This causes a less severe spike in blood sugar, and gives your body more time to “burn off” or “use” the energy. The scientific definition of polysaccharides is a chain of monosaccharaides (sugars) linked together by glycosidic bonds. There are different kinds of polysaccharides, which are “structure” or “storage” related: Starch

Starch: Starch is the way that plants store excess glucose (energy). Almost all vegetables and grains contain starch in varying degrees-common food sources include potatoes, wheat, rice, corn, taro root, yams, cassava, barley, and rye.

Fiber (or Cellulose): Cellulose is supposedly the most abundant substance in the living world. It is present in almost all plant foods. Cellulose is classified as “dietary fiber.” It is actually indigestible to humans and most animals. (For instance, wood, cotton and paper are almost pure Dietary Fibercellulose.) That may seem odd, since fiber is supposed to be good for us. But it’s indigestibility is actually its function…it changes the nature of our digestive tract, binds to bile acids to lower cholesterol, and changes how nutrients and chemicals react in the intestines. Fiber is extremely important, and I will devote an entire blog post to explain it.

Glycogen: Humans store “extra” energy in their livers and muscles in the form of glycogen. It is a kind of carbohydrate that can be broken down in glucose, or blood sugar, when the body has been deprived of food. All the glycogen in our bodies can be used up in one 24-hour period of fasting, or an intense workout. Luckily, it is replenished by the ingestion of carbohydrates.

There are other forms of fiber (structural polysaccharides) such as chitin, the compound that shellfish exoskeletons are made from, or pectin, a form of soluble fiber found in fruits.  Most plant foods contain a combination of starch and fiber, and humans have consumed these foods throughout history, (although the amount we should consume is a hot debate). I will bring in anthropology sources as a response to that question in a later post….